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Like a Carp on a Lawn

Graham Robb: Marie D’Agoult

7 June 2001
The Life of Marie d'Agoult, Alias Daniel Stern 
by Phyllis Stock-Morton.
Johns Hopkins, 291 pp., £33, July 2000, 0 8018 6313 9
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Marie d’Agoult: The Rebel Countess 
by Richard Bolster.
Yale, 288 pp., £16.95, September 2000, 0 300 08246 0
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... Nélida’ (1846). Nélida (the title is an anagram of her pen name, ‘Daniel’) was briefly famous because it seemed to recount her adventures with Liszt. Few people now have heard of it. As RichardBolster and Stock-Morton both observe, her novels are as mediocre as most 19th-century romans à clé. According to Stock-Morton, a modern Marie d’Agoult would probably have visited a ...

Fear the fairies

John Gallagher: Early Modern Sleepe

17 May 2017
Sleep in Early Modern England 
by Sasha Handley.
Yale, 280 pp., £25, August 2016, 978 0 300 22039 1
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... Of the thousands​ of people who visited the Buckinghamshire astrologer-physician and clergyman Richard Napier around the beginning of the 17th century, many were troubled by questions of sleep. The mother of 11-year-old Susan Blundell told Napier that her daughter was ‘now given mutch to sleeping ...

Japanese Power

Richard​ Bowring

14 June 1990
God’s Dust: A Modern Asian Journey 
by Ian Buruma.
Cape, 267 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 224 02493 0
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The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol V: The 19th Century 
edited by Marius Jansen.
Cambridge, 828 pp., £60, October 1989, 0 521 22356 3
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The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol. VI: The 20th Century 
edited by Peter Duus.
Cambridge, 866 pp., £60, June 1989, 0 521 22357 1
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... Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto known as Nichibunken, which was set up by Prime Minister Nakasone just before he left office, is in fact a right-wing cultural think-tank whose role is to bolster Japan’s sense of its own uniqueness. It is true that the head of the new Center, Umehara Takeshi, has some extraordinarily silly ideas about the dim and distant past when the Japanese were pure and ...
1 April 1983
The Wheat and the Chaff: The Personal Diaries of the President of France 1971-1978 
by François Mitterrand, translated by Richard​ Woodward, Helen Lane and Concilia Hayter.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 0 297 78101 4
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The French 
by Theodore Zeldin.
Collins, 542 pp., £12.95, January 1983, 0 00 216806 5
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... contempt for one’s “inferiors” ’. ‘Often, but by no means always, workers do not raise their sights above following in the footsteps of those who have made good. Which means that they often bolster up dying values just when the disenchanted bourgeoisie is losing faith.’ ‘Traditional culture is certainly still cherished by those who value respectability.’ ‘Some intellectuals, transformed ...

Outside Swan and Edgar’s

Matthew Sweet: The life of Oscar Wilde

5 February 1998
The Wilde Album 
by Merlin Holland.
Fourth Estate, 192 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 1 85702 782 5
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Cosmopolitan Criticism: Oscar Wilde’s Philosophy of Art 
by Julia Prewitt Brown.
Virginia, 157 pp., $30, September 1997, 9780813917283
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The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde 
edited by Peter Raby.
Cambridge, 307 pp., £37.50, October 1997, 9780521474719
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Wilde The Novel 
by Stefan Rudnicki.
Orion, 215 pp., £5.99, October 1997, 0 7528 1160 6
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Oscar Wilde 
by Frank Harris.
Robinson, 358 pp., £7.99, October 1997, 1 85487 126 9
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Moab is my Washpot 
by Stephen Fry.
Hutchinson, 343 pp., £16.99, October 1997, 0 09 180161 3
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Nothing … except My Genius 
by Oscar Wilde.
Penguin, 82 pp., £2.99, October 1997, 0 14 043693 6
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... of significant errors through multiple versions of Wilde’s history. Holland takes us back to one of the most familiar scenes from the life of Wilde: the bad moment outside Swan and Edgar’s. Richard Ellmann’s biography says that, as Wilde caught sight of ‘the painted boys on the pavement’ outside the department store, he was struck by an overwhelming sense of catastrophe. Holland traces ...

The Old Corrector

Richard​ Altick

4 November 1982
Fortune and Men’s Eyes: The Career of John Payne Collier 
by Dewey Ganzel.
Oxford, 454 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 19 212231 2
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... the staff of the Folger Shakespeare Library brought a fresh charge against Collier: the fabrication of 83 ballads in a manuscript commonplace book he owned. Ganzel vigorously disputes the charge.) To bolster their case, Madden and Ingleby sought to prove that the fateful emendations had not been in the Perkins Folio when it left Rodd’s hands. An unexpected witness for the defence, no less a personage ...
27 April 2000
The Dons 
by Noël Annan.
HarperCollins, 357 pp., £17.99, November 1999, 0 00 257074 2
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A Man of Contradictions: A Life of A.L.Rowse 
by Richard​ Ollard.
Allen Lane, 368 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 7139 9353 7
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... that he had been honoured for his scholarship and not for his skill as an administrator,’ he writes (implausibly) of Bowra. But it is the Order of Merit that bulks ever larger, as it does also in Richard Ollard’s biography of A.L. Rowse, A Man of Contradictions. Rowse appears never to have got over the OM awarded to Veronica Wedgwood: ‘ “My OM!” as he grew, with resentful jealousy, accustomed ...

Out of the Ossuary

Michael Neill: Shakespeare and Emotion

13 July 2016
The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare 
by Steven Mullaney.
Chicago, 231 pp., £24.50, July 2015, 978 0 226 11709 6
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... moments: on the one hand, the Duke of Gloucester’s powerful denunciation of Henry VI’s marriage to a French princess, with its rhetoric of historical effacement; on the other, the scene of Richard III’s nightmares at Bosworth, in which the past erupts to confound its own erasure. For Mullaney it is Talbot, the betrayed martial hero of Henry VI Part I, who stands for what is systematically ...

Let’s eat badly

William Davies: Irrationality and its Other

25 November 2019
Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason 
by Justin E.H. Smith.
Princeton, 344 pp., £25, April, 978 0 691 17867 7
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... as distinct from what economists or moral philosophers think should determine them. Marketers aren’t the only ones hungry for these insights. The popularisation of behavioural economics was led by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge (2008), which inspired the setting-up of ‘behavioural insights’ teams in governments around the world (with Cameron’s coalition government at the ...

The Savage Life

Frank Kermode: The Adventures of William Empson

19 May 2005
William Empson: Vol. I: Among the Mandarins 
by John Haffenden.
Oxford, 695 pp., £30, April 2005, 0 19 927659 5
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... and won an entrance scholarship to Winchester, where he flourished in spite of beatings. Haffenden offers detailed information about life at Winchester, where Empson’s companions included Richard Crossman, William Hayter, John Sparrow and other future grandees. It was, as he later remarked, ‘a ripping education’, a first-class ticket for life. The next stop was Cambridge, by means of a ...

Hew their bones in sunder

Eamon Duffy: Lancelot Andrewes

3 August 2006
Lancelot Andrewes: Selected Sermons and Lectures 
edited by Peter McCullough.
Oxford, 491 pp., £90, November 2005, 0 19 818774 2
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... like his clerical hero) ‘classicist in literature, royalist in politics and Anglo-Catholic in religion’. For Eliot, as for many Anglo-Catholics, Andrewes was an iconic ancestor figure. Along with Richard Hooker, George Herbert and William Laud, this ‘right reverend Father in God’ seemed to embody Catholic continuity and spiritual moderation. The English Church, these men believed, had maintained ...

Who was the enemy?

Bernard Porter: Gallipoli

20 May 2015
Gallipoli 
by Alan Moorehead.
Aurum, 384 pp., £25, April 2015, 978 1 78131 406 7
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Gallipoli: A Soldier’s Story 
by Arthur Beecroft.
Robert Hale, 176 pp., £12.99, March 2015, 978 0 7198 1654 3
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Gallipoli 1915 
by Joseph Murray.
Silvertail, 210 pp., £12.99, April 2015, 978 1 909269 11 8
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Gallipoli: The Dardanelles Disaster in Soldiers’ Words and Photographs 
by Richard​ van Emden and Stephen Chambers.
Bloomsbury, 344 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 4088 5615 4
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... a morale-boosting attack where Germany expected it least. The idea was to force open the straits between the Aegean and the Sea of Marmara, get to Constantinople, detach the Turks from the Germans, bolster the Russians and shorten the war by two years. It has been suggested that had it been successful it might even have forestalled the Bolshevik Revolution. Wasn’t all that worth a gamble? In the end ...

Joyce and Company

Tim Parks: Joyce’s Home Life

5 July 2012
James Joyce: A Biography 
by Gordon Bowker.
Phoenix, 608 pp., £14.99, March 2012, 978 0 7538 2860 1
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... is reduced to a catalogue of correspondences: we are told which real person gave which fictional character this or that physical attribute, or name, or occupation, or address. Readers familiar with Richard Ellmann’s biography of 1959 will be disappointed. Born in 1882, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was the first surviving child of John and May Joyce, whose recent marriage had been fiercely opposed ...

Somewhat Divine

Simon Schaffer: Isaac Newton

16 November 2000
Isaac Newton: The ‘Principia’ Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy 
translated by I. Bernard Cohen.
California, 974 pp., £22, September 1999, 0 520 08817 4
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... to make a completely new translation of the whole book, taking as their text the third Latin edition of 1726. This was all but ready in 1984, when Whitman died. Meanwhile, a definitive biography by Richard Westfall, publication of Newton’s correspondence and, decisively, a Cambridge edition of his mathematical papers were all completed. The new translation makes use of this scholarship. It opens with ...

Soul to Soul

Ian Buruma

19 February 1987
The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness 
by Peter Dale.
Croom Helm, 233 pp., £25, September 1987, 0 7099 0899 7
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... merely an Oriental portrait of that society of types like the fop, the toady and the man of spleen which parades through the literature of the 18th century’. That European models often served to bolster nationalist ideas of uniqueness in the early stages of modernisation is not as strange as it may seem. Just as a mythical past with its ancient Japanese spirit was conjured up in the Meiji period to ...

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